The museum’s collection of around 1,500 artefacts from different world cultures has its origins in the colonial era. Sir Alfred Pease, in addition to his hunting trophies, also gave a collection of beadwork from NE Africa. George Lockwood Dorman within his brief life had managed to collect ethnographical items from various parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Oceania and South Africa when he was stationed there during the Boer War. These items formed an important part of the museum’s founding collections.
The most notable collection is of Aboriginal artefacts. Some were collected by G.L. Dorman and others by Dr. Weatherill from East Kimberley. However, the majority of items were given by the Aboriginal Arts Board of Australia. They had previously formed part of their reserve collection and when they were presented to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in 1980 they formed the largest collection of their kind outside Australia.